U.S. Consul General Sharon Hudson-Dean
What was your childhood dream job?
– when I was in the 4th grade, my parents took us on a trip to Germany to visit my father’s army buddy in Berlin. It was the first international trip for the entire family, and I loved every minute. I didn’t sleep at all on the plane and still remember the movie we all watched on those old fashioned overhead screens: a Cold War spy thriller called “Telefon” starring Charles Bronson and Lee Remick. While there, we crossed Checkpoint Charlie and spent a day in East Berlin (this was the in late 1970s), which was an incredible experience. After that trip, I knew working overseas with lots of travel was the life for me.
What is your favourite movie?
The Grand Budapest Hotel (and all other Wes Anderson films). I love the design-conscious way in which each scene is painstakingly laid out to be campy but also realistic to the place and time period. The Grand Budapest Hotel brings together elements of old Europe and the Eastern Bloc, the humour of Mel Brooks and Hogan’s Heroes, and a truly great cast. My new cell phone cover is “Boy with Apple” - you will have to watch the movie to get the reference.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Stopping time to give myself more opportunity for reading. I feel I am always a better person
when I’m reading a great novel (top recent recommendations are Fates and Furies, A Gentleman in Moscow and Song of Achilles), and I have a fantastic stack of non-fiction on my bedside table that is getting dangerously high. I’ve always loved being in book clubs because I read differently for - and get much more out of - a book after a discussion. Currently, I am leading a professional development book club for our Consulate staff. It’s entirely voluntary and the group has agreed on a list for several months to come covering US and global foreign policy, Australian history and politics, and diplomatic memoirs. We’ve succeeded in arranging for two authors to speak to our club about their books. Our current list includes The Back Channel, Australia Day, and The Lessons of Tragedy. So many books to read and so little spare time…at least summer is on the way.
What is the most rewarding part about your job?
Representing my country to a wide array of foreign governments and people, from Australia to eastern Europe, southern Africa, and South Asia. I most enjoy meeting foreigners from all professions, walks of life, and age groups, and then being able to answer questions about my country, especially highlighting our values, history, and foreign policy goals.
of all has been coming back to Sydney where I started with my very first assignment in the mid-1990s. Whether in business, military or diplomacy, our nations have been investing in this important relationship by sending young professionals to work on the other side of the Pacific, knowing that they will build friendships and understanding to promote US-Australian ties throughout their careers. Nothing better illustrates the close relationship between us, and that our commitment to each other continues to grow stronger and more complex in a positive, integrated way over the years – something I am thrilled to be a part of.
What is your proudest moment so far?
As Charge d’Affaires a.i. in Riga, Latvia in 2015, I was asked to speak at the 25th anniversary of the Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia. That’s a real mouthful but what it means is the commemoration of the day on which Latvia re-declared its independence in the waning days of the Soviet Union. For a nation that suffered tremendously under Soviet rule, this was the culmination of many acts of bravery calling for sovereignty, which grew into a mass movement by 1989-90.
The celebration was held in the Latvian National Theatre because that is where the first Parliament of
newly independent Latvia originally met in 1918. Every seat was full that day in 2015 -- the President, the full government and Parliament were there, along with the State Radio and TV choir and orchestra, and religious and student leaders; and it was broadcast on live TV countrywide. The only foreigners invited to speak that day were the Speakers of the Estonian, Lithuanian, and Icelandic Parliaments, and myself as the representative of the United
States of America. The Icelanders spoke because Iceland was the first country to recognize independent Latvia in 1991. And the United States was there because we never recognized Latvia as a part of the Soviet Union. The U.S. State Department issued a statement – essentially a press release – in 1940, written by Acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles, which condemned the occupation by the Soviet Union of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and refused to recognize their annexation as Soviet Republics. To this day, the “Welles Declaration” is honoured and remembered in the Baltics as leading the world in keeping alive the concept of their nations as independent, sovereign states. Speaking on behalf of the government of the United States of America that day was truly powerful and drove home the essential values of freedom, statecraft, and a well-written media statement.
What is the best advice you ever received?
“Don’t make other people’s minds up for them” – meaning do not be self-defeating, but rather always focus on what you determine is the best course of action, justify your approach, and move forward. I think this approach to life and work is something very important to instill in our children and all employees. It can be very hard to put yourself out there in front of a group
or a decision maker, but I am constantly pushing my 13-year-old daughters to raise their hands in class and to approach the teachers with concrete ideas and reasoned arguments. Similarly, I want all of our Consulate employees to feel that they have ownership of the success of our operation and an open door for presenting a new idea or better approach. Not all ideas will be accepted, but they should be put on the table with a good explanation and given a thoughtful review by policymakers. Ironically, this was a piece of advice given to me by one of my first bosses when I worked at the U.S. Consulate in Sydney in the mid-1990s. I was probably the junior-most American employee in the whole Mission at that time – and I have never forgotten these words of wisdom.